Sunday, December 28, 2014

From the Great Salt Lake to Las Vegas Wash: Pelicans

On October 31, at Las Vegas Wash, I spotted a small group of pelicans - two of which had been banded.  One of the bird's tags were readable - two numbers and a letter in white writing on a green tag.  It turns out it had been banded as a chick on July 23rd up in the Great Salt Lake.  Here's a short article that the Review-Journal published earlier this year on the banding there.  Keep your eyes peeled!  And remember, if you find banded birds (pelicans or otherwise), please do report their bands to the Bird Banding Lab here - though with the larger wing tags like those on these pelicans (since you're not likely to be seeing the leg bands), you'll have to use their email address.

Happy birding!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Fall/Winter 2014 Projects

View from Las Vegas Wash
It’s been a busy fall here at GBBO!  Much of what we’ve been doing is working through the piles of data accumulated during the breeding season – but we’ve managed to make it out into the field, as well.  Among our projects were:

Anaho Island – in January, we will begin a year-long project looking at non-colonial waterbird use of Anaho Island.  This October, we visited the island to scope out survey locations, and see where the American White Pelican colony was located.  Stay tuned!

Crescent Dunes, Tonopah - in September, we began a pilot monitoring season at the Crescent Dunes Solar Power Plant near Tonopah.  This plant is due to begin generating power in early 2015; we’ll be involved in biological monitoring here for the next few years to document bird use and potential mortalities.  This will help to ensure that any impacts are well-documented, and will contribute to the development of mitigation strategies to minimize impacts on birds.

Las Vegas Wash – in September, we started up year-round bird surveys:  every two weeks, one of our surveyors conducts point counts on the Wash.  In October, we attacked the vegetation survey portion of the project – many thanks to Kelly and Dave for their hard work and great attitude – there’s nothing quite like having to run out a measuring tape through 70 meters of solid quailbush!

Lower Colorado River Project – the LCR crew had a successful bird survey season this spring/summer, and followed it up with vegetation surveys throughout September and October.  Here’s a post from a previous year’s veg surveys along the LCR, showing what it’s like.  Intrepid souls, who always seem to find the fun – even in tamarisk!

Nevada Bird Count – while the bird surveys finished in early July, and our main crew left in late July, Kelly and Dave remained on the vegetation survey circuit into November, finishing up habitat surveys in blackbrush habitats within the Mojave Desert, and pinyon-juniper habitats within the Pine Nut Range, near Carson City.  Thanks, guys!

Warm Springs Natural Area – in September, we conducted our fall bird surveys, and in October/November, the final vegetation surveys were finished up.  Dave informs me that however impressed he was by his 70 meters of quailbush, he was even more impressed by his 50 solid meters of mesquite thicket.  He’s finishing up the data entry now – next month the habitat modelling begins!

Waterbirds –  we continued to monitor fish-eating waterbird numbers at Walker Lake and several other terminal lakes in western Nevada, including Pyramid Lake.  Due to continued declines in the water level and Walker Lake, and corresponding increases in dissolved solids in the lake water, fish populations have crashed and the avifauna of the lake reflects these changes, with fish-eating birds numbers reaching very low levels, and numbers of invertebrate feeders (notably the small grebes) reaching very high levels during parts of the year.  Continued bird monitoring will help to document improvements in the lake's ecology if current efforts to acquire more inflow are ultimately successful.  

As you can see, we’ve been keeping busy – and now prepping for the 2015 field season begins!  Have a wonderful holiday, and all the best for the New Year!